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The Climate Change-GIS Connection

Climate change and its effects are fundamentally geographic challenges that require a geographic approach, where we endeavor to understand the constraints a changing climate imposes upon the terrestrial and aquatic systems we depend.
Geography is a powerful multidimensional framework enabling scientists to explore data layers, discover emergent new patterns, and test alternative scenarios; so we can understand the risks, develop proactive adaptation strategies, and increase society’s long-term resilience to climate change through policy modification. Esri is committed to providing tools to accelerate the global community’s ability to access content, do analyses and share results.
Not only does GIS power analysis, informing citizens and policymakers on how landscapes are responding to change, the GIS platform also provides a framework for multidisciplinary collaboration throughout the phases of development. From design and implementation, to monitoring and evaluation, it integrates information in a way that promotes dialogue between stakeholders resulting in more sustainable outcomes.


Understanding Our Food Systems

For the first time, thanks to advances in cloud and server technology, non-GIS users can explore these complex interactions by running complex scenarios such as this ‘on the fly’. ‘Show me areas with high maize production in agricultural land, with high population density, in areas most at risk to climate change in 2050.’
By serving these layers as live image services, that is, as actual data as opposed to pictures of data, citizens, scientists, and policymakers can ask questions of landscape layers that honor the complexity of the data.

African Landscape Modeler - Analyzing areas of high maize production with a dependent population, which is prone to climate change.
African Landscape Modeler: Analyzing areas of high maize production with a dependent population, which is prone to climate change.
In collaboration with many of our partners, a suite of new landscape data layers and modeling tools are being developed and put in the hands of researchers and planners, enabling the discovery of emergent patterns to inform agricultural practices to reduce hunger, increase food production and improve climate resilience.  Given the increasing pressures caused by climate change, land degradation, population and demand for food, its role in informing solutions is likely to become even more critical into the future.
Now more than ever, GIS is poised to support researchers and farmers with tools to understand and respond to changing agricultural patterns.


Understanding Our Oceans

The oceans are our climate engine.  They feed us, regulate our weather patterns, provide over half the oxygen that we breathe, and contribute to our energy and economy.  And in a world where climate, oceans, and people are tightly linked and interconnected, we must first understand the oceans before we can address the issues of climate change.
Geographic information systems (GIS) technology, which has long provided effective solutions to the integration, visualization, and analysis of information about land, is now being similarly applied to oceans. Our ability to measure change in the oceans (including open ocean, nearshore, and coast) is increasing, not only because of improved measuring devices and scientific techniques, but also because new GIS technology is aiding us in better understanding this dynamic environment. This domain has progressed from applications that merely collect and display data to complex simulation, modeling, and the development of new research methods and concepts.


Understanding Our Cities

By 2050, estimates suggest the majority of humanity will live in cities–many in coastal areas–and they will need to react to new climate realities. Cities can learn a lot from each other, but until recently this was difficult. Data about our cities is collected at different scales, and in different ways, making comparative analysis awkward, and leveraging what works slow to catch on.
Enter the Urban Observatory. This first-of its kind virtual experience takes advantage of GIS technology as an integrative platform that standardizes scale and representation of earth’s cities, so as to visually compare and contrast detailed information from one to another. The result: a greater understanding of city life in the years to come.

The Urban Observatory
The Urban Observatory.
This type of research and exposure can help cities understand what strategies work, in order to repeat and expand upon them, and what policies to avoid. Lessons learned through the Urban Observatory are likely to impact trillions of dollars in future societal development costs.

For even more resources, see Climate Change and GIS: Resources for Action.

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